I started an online reading of The Second Machine Age last week, and now we move on to chapters three and four.
First, quick notes about a recent news stories that bear on SMA topics. Some people have been using a computer program to generate spoof science papers, which professional organizations (and maybe peer review) accepted. Rolls Royce is developing drone cargo ships.
Now, on to the text.
Last week we left off with Brynjolfsson and McAfee promising to cover “exponential, digital, and combinatorial” changes. This week addresses the first two.
Chapter Three: “Moore’s Law and the Second Half of the Chessboard”
This begins with a sketch of Gordon Moore’s famous observation concerning the rapid and steady grown of computing power. Brynjolfsson and McAfee want us to understand the principle of exponential growth, so offer two other stories, including one about tribbles and the more famous chessboard parable .
SMA sees this growth pattern applying to multiple types of hardware beyond memory and processing chips, including mobile device components (“microphones, cameras, and accelerometers.” (51) An example of the effects of these developments is recent improvement in simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM), which used to be a serious challenge, and is now getting easier to accomplish. (52)
Chapter Four: “Digitization of Just About Everything”
This chapter begins by introducing Waze, a mapping tool that goes beyond most current digital maps through its combination of GPS, mobile devices, and social networking. SMA will return to Waze in later chapters.
The real focus of chapter 4 is on digitization (61). Brynjolfsson and McAfee are interested in the economic and practical implications of migrating content and behavior into bits. They address free content and peer production (65), but curiously omit mention of copyright. Besides content creation and manipulation, this chapter sees data and real-world analysis as a major result of digitization.
Chapter 4 concludes by returning to Waze as a bridge to the next chapter (and our reading’s next topic), combinatorial innovation.